Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Florida

State 7:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states we have visited alphabetically. If you are looking for Connecticut or Delaware, we’ve never been to either of those states (except to drive through the Delmarva Peninsula without stopping) so the next state is

Florida

Florida became the 27th state on March 3, 1845. The capital is Tallahassee.

We started vacationing in Florida back in the 70’s and have traveled all around the state both before and after our RV travels began. For many years we traveled to the Florida Keys at least once a year. We’ve traveled all along the Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, to small towns and big cities, gone scuba diving and snorkeling in the beautiful coral reefs, caught many fish, boated to remote islands, visited museums and lighthouses, attended sporting events, tasted amazing seafood and key lime pie, explored two national parks and a national seashore, observed graceful birds and other wildlife, kayaked and canoed in the rivers, swam in the springs, watched many sunsets, and walked on some of America’s most beautiful beaches.

Florida is famous for it’s beautiful beaches  and theme parks.

Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Micky welcomes us to the Magic Kingdom
Mickey welcomes everyone to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World

There’s so much more to the Sunshine State than it’s beaches and theme parks.

With it’s many birds, wildlife, and beautiful landscapes, Everglades National Park is one of my favorite national parks.

Pa-Hay-Otee Overlook in Everglades National Park
Pa-Hay-Otee Overlook in Everglades National Park

The only way to get to Dry Tortugas National Park is to take a boat ride or seaplane trip from Key West.

Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park
Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park

Explore Fort Pickens and walk on miles of sugar white sand beaches in Gulf Islands National Seashore .

One of the cannons atop Fort Pickens
One of the cannons atop Fort Pickens

There are many small islands accessible only by boat. Picnic Island in the lower keys was one of our favorites.

Popular boating destination in the lower Florida Keys
Popular boating destination in the lower Florida Keys

Cedar Key is one of the small waterfront towns we love to visit.

Honeymoon Cottage, Cedar Key, Florida
Honeymoon Cottage, Cedar Key, Florida

I loved the  Art Deco buildings in South Beach Miami.

South Beach, Miami, Florida
South Beach, Miami, Florida

It’s always fun to stroll along the waterfronts.

Shrimp boats on the Appalachacola Waterfront
Shrimp boats on the Appalachacola Waterfront

There are interesting structures to discover. The Perky Bat Tower on Sugarloaf Key was built in 1929 to house bats to help control the mosquito population. Unfortunately, the bats flew away and never returned.

The Bat Tower, Sugarloaf Key
The Perky Bat Tower, Sugarloaf Key was built in 1929

The Spring House in White Springs on the Suwanee River was a huge tourist destination in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Spring House at White Springs, Florida

There’s a famous headstone in the Key West Cemetery.

Famous headstone in the Key West Cemetery
Famous headstone in the Key West Cemetery

U.S. Highway 1 goes from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West and we’ve been to both ends. The Southernmost Point in the continental United States is also in Key West.

Mile Marker Zero
Mile Marker Zero in Key West

The variety of birds never ceases to amaze me.

White Pelicans and Cormorants around Cedar Key
White Pelicans and Cormorants around Cedar Key
Green Heron with fish in mouth Everglades National Park
Green Heron with fish in mouth Everglades National Park
Red Shouldered Hawg Big Cypress Preserve
Red Shouldered Hawk Big Cypress Preserve

Tiny key deer, endangered gopher tortoise, manatees, and of course alligators are some of the wildlife to be found.

Key Deer
The Key Deer located around Big Pine Key are just a little bit bigger than a Labrador Retriever
Gopher Tortoise at our campsite Silver River State Park
Gopher Tortoise at our campsite Silver River State Park
Aligators along the Anhinga Trial, Everglades National Park 2012
Alligators along the Anhinga Trial, Everglades National Park 2012
Manatee in Homossassa Springs
Manatee eating a carrot in Homossassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Florida is home to beautiful springs and rivers.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
Hillsborough River
Hillsborough River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River

Don’t forget the lighthouses.

Cape Florida Lighthouse
Cape Florida Lighthouse

Nothing better than freshly caught fish for dinner! We cooked up this grouper after one of our most memorable fishing trips many years ago.

Henry with the biggest catch of the day!
Henry with the biggest catch of the day!

Many Major League Baseball teams play their spring training games in Florida.

Atlanta Braves Spring Training at Disney's Wide World of Sports
Atlanta Braves Spring Training at Disney’s Wide World of Sports

The historic Fort Gates Ferry carries people and vehicles across the St. Johns River.

Waiting to cross the St. John's River on the Fort Gates Ferry
Waiting to cross the St. John’s River on the Fort Gates Ferry

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California     Colorado

Best Campgrounds of the year – 2016

Welcome to our third annual “Wandering Dawgs best campgrounds of the year” list.

Our 2016 wandering took us on a short trips to Florida, Georgia,  Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

We prefer staying in state and federal parks and this year our top three all fall into one of those categories.

Number 3: Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, Alabama

Early Morning at Tranquility Lake
Tranquility Lake was just a short walk from our campsite

We stopped at Oak Mountain on our way to Mississippi and enjoyed it so much we returned to the same site (A28) on our way back home to Georgia.

Our site was spacious with full hook ups and nothing but woods behind us. This large state park has a golf course, archery range, equestrian camping and horse stables, nature and hiking trails, lake front beach, mountain bike trails, and scenic drives. The road through the park is a popular place for bicyclists. Nearby Pelham and Birmingham have restaurants and shopping.

View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook
View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook

Click First Stop on our Fall Football Road Trip to read more about our stay.

Number 2: Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Fargo, Georgia

Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?
Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?

We love this place so much we have camped here numerous times in past 10 years. Our most recent trip was in March, 2016.

Just getting to the campground is an adventure. After turning off the highway, seventeen miles of driving through pine forests and palmettos takes you into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It is remote, quiet, and wild.

We camp in one of the large premium pull through sites. It is a short walk or bike ride from the campground to the marina where you can go on a guided tour of the Okefenokee Swamp, rent a boat or canoe, launch your own boat, or take a walk on the nature trail through the swamp. Alligators are often seen around the marina but we’ve never seen one in the campground.

Sophie the Mama Gator
Sophie the Mama Gator

Click Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to read more about our stay.

Number 1: Fort Pickens Campground, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

Ready for Beach Chair Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico
Ready for Beach Chair Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico

Miles of white sugar sand beach in Gulf Islands National Seashore within walking distance from our campsite, an historic fort to explore, a nice campsite, nature trails, beautiful sunsets, fresh seafood, fishing pier, museums and a lighthouse nearby – what’s not to love?

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Click Gulf Islands National Seashore to read more about our stay.

Honorable Mention:

  • We returned to Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, Arkansas, our “Best Campground of the Year – 2014“. I left it out of the top three tp make room for three new campgrounds
  • Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, White Springs, Florida
  • Eastbank Corps of Engineers  Campground, Bainbridge, Georgia

Where do you think we will wander next year? Stay tuned…

Girl’s Trip

Last week two of my girlfriends and I made a road trip to a resort in Orlando near Disney World. Our goal was to hang around by the pool, do some shopping, go out to eat, and have a few umbrella drinks.

Spent a lot of time chilling by the cascades at the pool
Spent a lot of time chilling by the pool

One night we arrived at The Whiskey during happy hour.  We were the only tourists at this hip locals hangout and also the oldest people there! The wait staff was great, the food was good, and we enjoyed watching the young crowd.

Happy Hour at the Whiskey
Happy Hour at the Whiskey

There is no Trader Joe’s near where I live so I am always happy to find one when I am on the road.

Got my Trader Joe's fix
Got my Trader Joe’s fix

To  celebrate my birthday on Friday we spent the afternoon at Disney Springs. This used to be called Downtown Disney and since my last visit seven years ago it has totally changed. Parking lots have been replaced with new upscale shops and parking garages have been added.

There is no fee to go to Disney Springs and parking is free. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Although we didn’t give ourselves enough time to really enjoy it all I was able to find gifts for my grand children that can only be purchased in the shops there or in one of the theme parks.

Rent an amphicar to tour the lake
Renting an amphicar is one of the attractions at Disney Springs
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando

On the way back home we stopped at Skipper’s Fish Camp in Darien, Georgia for some delicious fried shrimp and a great view of the shrimp boats.

After three days of laughter and fun, I returned home exhausted but with happy memories of a great adventure with my friends.

A few Florida curves

On our recent spring trip to the Gulf Islands National Seashore we encountered a few curves the day we moved on to Falling Waters State Park.

Sand covered parts of Fort Pickens Road as we exited the National Seashore
Sand covered parts of Fort Pickens Road as we exited the National Seashore
Curve in Garcon Point Bridge, Florida
Curve in Garcon Point Bridge, Florida
Curve in Boardwalk at Falling Waters State , Florida
Curve in Boardwalk at Falling Waters State , Florida

This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

Tomorrow is a Mystery

Five years ago I had just gotten over a very serious illness and did not know what the future would be for me. One of my best friends gave me this plaque in the above photo that now hangs in my kitchen to remind me that every day is a gift.

Sunrise behind Fort Pickens Campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore

Every time I see a sunrise I know that I have been given the precious gift of another day on planet earth.

This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. For more interpretations of the future visit WordPress Photo Challenge: Future